I’m thinking about Joe Powers today. I think of him often, but today it has been 2 years since his accident. I am able to see the things people google to get to my blog, and besides “pregnant masseuse” and “peruvian parasite,” “joe powers accident” shows up pretty frequently. When I run into people who know Joe, they ask me how he’s doing. We live across the country from each other now, but I try my best to keep up with all his progress. I visited Joe’s parents in Oregon a couple of weeks ago and I got to see the home Joe grew up in. I had a really nice time that I won’t soon forget.
Joe and I did standup comedy together in New York City. In fact, he was my inspiration to start doing comedy. He’s the best storyteller I’ve ever known and we used to tell each other stories for hours, or when we were at work, email stories back and forth all day long.
On August 22nd (late at night, so actually the 23rd), Joe was at a party after a comedy show when he fell two stories off the roof of an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. I was not there. No one is exactly sure how it happened because no one saw it. At first, his friends thought maybe he just went home without saying goodbye, but one friend said that wasn’t possible because they lived near the same subway stop and Joe would have asked her if she wanted to go also. So they looked for him, found him, called an ambulance, and saved his life.
Joe’s bones have healed, but he is still recovering from a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). When I lived in New York, I would go to Queens about once a week to visit him at Park Terrace, a rehab/care facility. For the first year, Joe’s memory was very much impaired. But I knew all his stories, so I would spend the day retelling the incredible stories he had told me from his life. When his family couldn’t be there, I would stay a few nights at the Holiday Inn across the street and spend my days with him so he wouldn’t have to be alone.
But almost a year ago I moved to Los Angeles. Luckily, Joe made so much progress in his first year of recovery, he was able to move as well– to an amazing facility called the Northeast Center for Special Care in Lake Katrine, NY. His wonderful parents and siblings travel to New York to spend time with him, but if there’s a week that no one is able to be there, Joe is ok by himself. He’s much more independent. I got to visit him for three days in June for the first time since I moved. Since my last visit in September 2009, Joe was now pushing his wheelchair by himself, speaking more complex sentences clearly, and his memory was very much improved. We watched Last Comic Standing together and he even remembered some of the comedians on the show (the year prior to his accident is still the hardest for him to remember.)
He has been in recovery for two years now, and he continues to make significant progress. He is the kindest, most patient person and his attitude is remarkably positive. He jokes around a lot, and when he is ready to move on from the rehab facility, he would like to move back to NYC and continue doing standup. While I was there, Joe was preparing a list of questions to ask one of his fellow “neighbors” at the center. He wanted to ask him to name five realistic goals for the next 10 years and five “if I could do anything” goals. So I asked Joe what his realistic and “if I could do anything” goals were. He said, “To get out of my wheelchair, to use my left arm again, and to start doing comedy again. That’s it.”
I talked to Joe on the phone yesterday. He sounded good, he was hanging out with his dad. He has met all his speech therapy goals, and will receive more botox in his left arm and leg and additional baclofen that will help with relax his muscles so he can strengthen them and eventually walk and regain the use of his hand. Joe is left-handed, but he can do a lot of things with his right hand now, including send text messages, emails, and write words by hand.
I’m so proud of Joe. He has made wonderful progress, and it is inspiring to see him treat everyone around him with so much kindness and respect as he works so hard on his recovery. I am also inspired by his family, who are so supportive and encouraging.
For those people who are looking for more information, his parents do a great job of posting updates to http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JoePowers/.
This was taped a few days before his accident. Joe still remembers this joke!